Today in History, August 18: 1812 – During the War of 1812, the USS Constitution defeats the Royal Navy Frigate Guerriere off Boston. It had been assumed that the Royal Navy had better ships, better commanders, better tactics than the young American Navy. On this date, the British sailors said their shot bounced off of the Constitution as if she were made of iron rather than wood, thus her historic name “Old Ironsides”.
The Frigate had originally been one of six ships built for defense and to fight Barbary Pirates. The peace treaty ending the Barbary wars was signed on her deck.
The American ship out maneuvered and out fought the British ship, de-masting her and leaving her a wreck. This was not to be a one time affair, either, as the Constitution went on to defeat 7 more of the King’s best during the war. From fighting Barbary Pirates to a world good will tour in the 1840’s, Old Ironsides served the nation well. Today she is the world oldest commissioned warship, docked at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.
She has been in the news lately as she was placed in dry dock and underwent and extensive refurbishment, returning to “sea” just recently.